Last week I issued a Challenge to Depend and Poise to change their messaging to women from selling confidence via embracing incontinence to inspiring true confidence with messaging that captured the possibility that women could live free of incontinence. Depend wrote me back! Here is their response, and mine!
Thank you so much for initiating this discussion. The more incontinence and the disorders that cause it are discussed, the sooner we can break down the stigma that so often comes with it.
To give you a bit of background on the people who generously appeared in our Depend “Real Stories” videos, all of them have either pursued treatment and found it didn’t eliminate their leaks or decided that the treatment options for their specific condition were more challenging to endure than wearing protection.
We are committed to educating those with incontinence about all options, including pelvic floor physiotherapy, medications, surgeries and other methods. On Poise.com and Depend.com you’ll find that we have a series of educational materials that encourage people to seek out medical advice and treatment to see if they can minimize or even eliminate their bladder leaks.
Fortunately, the absorbent pads and undergarments that we manufacture meet our consumers’ needs when they’re suffering incontinence, whether temporary or permanent. Our goal is to give them more confidence to get out and enjoy their lives, even if they leak a little.
Again, thank you so much for initiating this conversation, Julie. We look forward to working closely with professionals like you to help those with incontinence get the help they need, in both therapeutic and practical ways.
Thomas at Depend®
I really appreciate your response. I acknowledge and agree that our conservative measures and even surgery are not enough to solve incontinence in some cases, and for those folks I am grateful that products such as yours exist. I also dug through your site and the Poise site after reading your response to understand your messaging better related to how to solve incontinence vs manage it. I recognize you have made efforts in this regard. I appreciate those efforts.
However, I did have to dig. If I have to dig, so do others. It is the overall messaging that I think I hope would change. For example, I found info on Kegels (a proactive option) on the Women’s (and Men’s) Incontinence Guide page under “Living and Managing”. That verbiage sends a powerful message of acceptance. Instead, how about: “Kicking Incontinence to the Curb” or “Treatment and Proactive Options”. That sends a very different message.
Expanding these options beyond Kegels is important too. Lots of women have tried these and have not had relief of their symptoms. Kegels have been our long standing go-to option for women, along with the message that you leak because your pelvic floor is weak. But a decade or so of research has helped us understand that the pelvic floor does not act alone to stop leaks, a system of muscles and pressures work together to control continence. So an exercise program that only targets the pelvic floor will not address the system, and is one of the issues that accounts for the frustration women feel with Kegels. Pelvic floor strength is only one piece of the puzzle, coordination of the pelvic floor with the rest of the system is critical and a missing piece for many women. I suspect that Kegels were a part of Starkeisha’s attempt at treatment (and Whoopee Goldberg’s, Kim Kardashian’s, and Kirstie Alley’s over on the Poise campaigns too). We have other tools to offer. Updates to your information to reflect our evolving understanding of continence control would be another terrific step.
I noted on the Poise site that they have some notable folks on their expert panel, but a pelvic health physical therapist was not among them. Adding information from a pelvic health physical therapist would keep advances in conservative treatment more readily available to your shared communities. I did note that physical therapy was mentioned in some of your blogs and theirs. Awesome, we appreciate the nod! In your Support FAQ’s in the Women’s (and Men’s) Incontinence Guide the first question is “Where can I learn more about incontinence” and lists some great information resources. Would you consider adding a question such as “Where can I learn more about my treatment options?” . The Section on Women’s Health of the American Physical Therapy Association has a great PT locator page on their site as I noted on my original blog. (Canadian equivalent here ).
Again, this is a messaging switch. Support can and should be active (or as you said therapeutic) and practical.
One woman who weighed in on my Facebook page discussion of the Challenge blog noted the positive messaging of Dove’s Real Beauty Campaign as a template for changing the message on incontinence for women. A Real Confidence Campaign would be groundbreaking. You have taken some noteworthy steps, thanks for bringing them to our attention. How about a few more? We serve the same community and have the same goals. This issue is in the light more than ever, women are talking about it, celeb endorsements help reduce the stigma. But let’s take that momentum and move women and men toward concrete options for change, with products such as yours supporting those steps towards recovery.
Thanks again for being willing to dialogue on this topic!
Julie Wiebe, PT